May 7, 2013

Calling Yourself a Writer

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Several conversations I've had recently with writers included a recurring theme, and a surprising one.  They find it difficult to tell people that they're a "writer," even though they've been writing their whole lives.

In some cases, it's because they haven't been "formally" published yet.  In other cases, they have one or more books out, but somewhere along the line someone gave them them the impression that what they do for a living isn't as important as other things they could be doing with their lives, so they hesitate to claim the credential of "writer."

One had the especially telling explanation that she doesn't have a degree in writing.  I call that the "diploma syndrome."  Life trains us that we need to earn certain pieces of paper that say we can graduate, we can drive, we can vote, etc.  As a result, some wait for that magic document that declares them valid.

I'm encouraged by the perspective of poet Sara M. Robinson, who reminds us in the latest issue of Southern Writers why classics are required reading in school. Likewise, Georgia Author of the Year nominee Gerald Gillis spells out why he vowed to become a full-time writer, despite his respectable and successful earlier careers. We read about lawyers who became writers. Nurses who became writers. Writers who tried something else and came back to writing.

If you've seen the movies Courageous and Facing the Giants, or are familiar with the best-selling Love Dare, you will find new inspiration in Susan Reichert's cover story interview with filmmaker Alex Kendrick, who is committed to making movies that matter. Phyllis Porter Dolislager shares how writing is changing the lives of her writers groups as well as their families. Throughout the May/June issue we revisit the reasons why what we do is important, necessary work. (We already knew it was work!)

As a writer, you come from a long and noble heritage: Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, every author you've ever read and enjoyed.  They are our teachers, our mentors, our own family tree of literacy.

Next time someone asks what you do, be proud to tell them you're a writer.  Many times, people are still impressed by that.

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